Washington Wrap

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Dotty Lynch, Douglas Kiker, Steve Chaggaris, Beth Lester and Clothilde Ewing of the CBS News Political Unit have the latest from the nation's capital. Our former colleague Marty Plissner, with campaign finance institutional memory, came up with our first item.

The Dynamics of Cash: A day after John Kerry fired campaign manager Jim Jordan and promised that he's "changing the dynamics" of his campaign, the political world is still awaiting his decision on whether to opt out of the primary matching fund system.

Within days, Kerry should be announcing whether he will follow Howard Dean out of the public financing arena. Interestingly, back in March, the Kerry campaign sent out a solicitation that suggested he would take public matching funds, the Washington Post reported. "The Primary Matching Funds System could prove to be an enormous benefit to my campaign, but for it to work, I need your help," Kerry said in an e-mail to potential donors.

At the time, manager Jordan told the Post they still hadn't decided either way, saying they were operating "under the assumption that [we] would opt into the matching fund." Jordan also said, "If we do opt out, any funds from this solicitation will be returned." As of press time, the Kerry campaign hadn't responded as to how much was raised and whether this promise still holds, especially since Jordan has been shown the door.

On Saturday, Kerry criticized Howard Dean, saying that even if he opted out, he would abide by the "spirit of the law" and spend only $45 million "until the nominee is effectively known." Opting out, however, would free him from the shackles of spending caps in each state (read: New Hampshire), as well as opening the door allowing him to use his own money. However, the decision is not as cut and dried as it seems because of several issues, including how much of his wife Teresa Heinz's $550 million inheritance is now in his name or in joint assets, as well as the potential implications of borrowing against those assets.

Federal law bars Kerry from using any of his wife's money. He may use 50 percent of any joint assets and he can use 100 percent of anything in his own name. It's still unclear how her fortune is broken down, though it's a pretty good chance that most of her money is unavailable to him since it's in Heinz funds and trusts. Additionally, it's too late for her to transfer any of her cash over to him without being in violation of campaign finance laws.

All this talk about money also comes on the day when Kerry is unleashing a new ad buy featuring the president's aircraft carrier photo op from last May. For more, see Aircraft Carrier Politics.

Gephardt Hangs In There: With all the hubbub surrounding Howard Dean's front-runner status, the steady performance of Rep. Richard Gephardt has been overshadowed a bit. But, as The New York Times reports, Gephardt has been campaigning hard, often highlighting his long resume of Washington experience, "and something seems to be working for him right now – at least in Iowa, the first caucus state."

In Iowa, Gephardt's must-win state, "he has recovered from his September slump and has edged ahead of Dr. Dean in the most recent polls," the Times reports. "As he darts from town to town, Mr. Gephardt is drawing larger crowds and is increasing described by some Democrats as the most potent adversary to Dr. Dean."

The Gephardt campaign appears to be gearing up for a showdown of sorts with Dean and John Kerry at Saturday's Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner. In an e-mail to "interested parties," Gephardt's Iowa communications director, Bill Burton, said the other campaigns are planning to spend "$100,000" on signs and campaign material at the J-J. Burton, apparently anticipating a dearth of Gephardt signage, said, "The Jefferson Jackson Day Dinner, while an important and necessary fundraiser for the Iowa Democratic Party, is not a show of organizational strength. It is a fundraiser for which two candidates have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars." (Washington Wrap wonders … How many "Hillary '04" signs will there be at the event, headlined by none other than HRC?)

Gephardt's campaign surely welcomed the good news in the Times after the not-so-good times they had last week, when two of the nation's most powerful unions – a constituency Gephardt has spent almost his entire career supporting and courting – endorsed Dean. While Gephardt's campaign tried to brush off the impact of the SEIU and AFSCME decisions (in part by sending out a comprehensive list of unions that have backed Gephardt, including political powerhouses like the Operative Plasterers' and Cement Masons' International Association), the perception among politicos was that Dean's rise cut Gephardt badly.

But, again, Gephardt started this week with good news from the union front, this time from super-powerful AFL-CIO boss John Sweeney, who played down the impact of the SEIU and AFSCME announcements and said Gephardt was "tough enough" to survive Dean's coup, the AP reports.

Gephardt, who has been endorsed by 20 unions representing five million workers, appeared on CBS' "Early Show" on Monday and seemed to agree with Sweeney's assessment. He told Harry Smith, "I've got huge unions for me, I've got little unions and big unions … It's not just the leadership … It's that rank-and-file worker that's excited about my campaign."

Sweeney told the AP that none of the candidates has support from two-thirds of the AFL-CIO's membership that's required for an endorsement from the umbrella organization. Sweeney said P his organization plans to spend about $35 million during the 2004 election cycle, down from $42 million in 2000. He made it clear that money will be spent to defeat President Bush, who he described as "anti-worker, anti-union and anti-progress."

The SEIU, which voted to endorse Dean last week, plans to formally announce it in Washington on Wednesday afternoon. AFSCME, whose president, Gerald McEntee, has signaled his support for Dean, will convene its executive council in Washington on Wednesday morning and may participate in the announcement if the council votes for Dean as well.

Fund Race For The Finish: Howard Dean claims the most grassroots support, Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., inspires the most devoted donors and President Bush tops the "Fat Cat" Index. Using information on contribution size, number of donations per donor, income and geographic information, has compiled fundraising information on the presidential candidates – the nine Democrats and President Bush – to produce indices of grassroots support, donor devotion and "Fat Cat" contributions.

The charts tell an unusual story. On the grassroots index, Dean unsurprisingly tops the list, with contributions from over 6,000 zip codes. Following Dean, however, is President Bush, whose ability to raise funds from 8,518 zip codes gives him grassroots support often hidden by the size of donations. The grassroots news is also good for Dennis Kucinich and Rev. Al Sharpton, who are in third and fourth place. Wesley Clark, Richard Gephardt and John Kerry are in the middle of the pack, and Edwards, former Ambassador Carol Moseley Braun and Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Ct., bring up the rear.

But if the grassroots news is bad for Edwards, his donors' repeat giving and financial "sacrifice" (average contribution size as a percentage of income) help the senator lead the "Devotion Index." President Bush again comes in second and Gephardt rounds out the top three. For all the talk of Dean fanatics, the former governor comes in fifth, behind Sharpton. In the middle, Braun tops both Kerry and Clark, suggesting that their star power doesn't translate to donor devotion. The Devotion Index is also sour for Lieberman: he comes in ninth again, in front of only Kucinich.

On the Fat Cats Index, President Bush tops the list in convincing fashion and Dean makes good on his claim to skinnier donors, slotting in at eighth place. Lieberman and Kerry, who have languished in the lower half of the first two indices, can take heart among Fat Cats: they finish in second and third place respectively, at least money raised in the early part of this year. Edwards, Gephardt and Clark make up the middle of the pack, with Moseley Braun, Sharpton and Kucinich completing the list.

The Web site also features some cool maps showing each candidates money by geographical location.

Maybe They Should Have Stuck With Boxers Or Briefs: When questions like "Which of you are ready to admit to having used marijuana in the past?" receive loads of applause, a question such as "Macs or PCs?" seems to be a bit of a buzz kill. But Alexandra Trustman, who asked the "digital age" question says it wasn't her idea, reports the Washington Post.

According to Trustman, a CNN producer called her the morning of the "Rock the Vote" forum and suggested she ask the candidates' their computer preferences. And although she drafted a more complicated version of the question, she was told her question wasn't acceptable "because it wasn't light-hearted enough and they wanted to modulate the event with various types of questions."

Prior to the forum, Jehmu Greene, the executive director of "Rock The Vote" was asked whether they chose the questions beforehand and she responded that although the topics were pre-selected, the questions were not.

But CNN spokesman Matthew Furman came clean. "In an attempt to encourage a lighthearted moment in this debate, a CNN producer working with Ms. Trustman clearly went too far. CNN regrets the producer's actions."

By the way, of those who answered the question, only Al Sharpton is a Mac user.

Quote of the Day: "It's clear the campaign manager job in Kerry-world is akin to being mayor of Beirut." – John Weaver, former political director for John McCain, on the firing of Kerry's campaign manager, Jim Jordan, on Sunday. (The Boston Globe)